PG&E Rolls Out More Power Outages While Denying Reimbursements

Around 179,000 customers across 17 counties will be affected this time, the Northern California utility company said.

Pacific Gas & Electric, the Northern California utility company scrutinized for cutting power to more than 700,000 customers earlier this month over concerns its infrastructure could spark a wildfire, said Wednesday that more power outages were coming that afternoon.

The decision “was based on forecasts of dry, hot and windy weather that poses a higher risk for damage and sparks on the electric system and rapid wildfire spread,” PG&E said in a statement Wednesday morning.

Approximately 179,000 customers across 17 counties will be affected, with the first areas going dark at 2 p.m. local time. The company hopes to restore power to most customers within 48 hours. 

PG&E’s announcement comes a day after escalating its scuffle with Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) over reimbursing affected customers. Though the governor has asked the company to provide $100 to residents who lose power and $250 to any small businesses that do, a PG&E spokeswoman said Tuesday that that’s a non-starter.

“Consistent with our policies and the state’s electric tariffs regarding weather-related outages, we are not considering reimbursements or bill credits,” PG&E spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo said in a written statement to The Sacramento Bee.

The company did not immediately return HuffPost’s requests to elaborate further on the decision.

Though PG&E has emphasized the power outages as a safety measure, critics say the ordeal only underscores the company’s shortcomings in keeping its equipment safe. The drastic solution of a forced power outage is a response to a problem of PG&E’s own making, California state leaders say.

“We have an antiquated system at PG&E that needs to be upgraded,” Newsom said earlier this month, criticizing the company for prioritizing profits over safety. PG&E has been under near-constant investigation for the past decade over the numerous wildfires connected to it violating safety rules, such as poor record-keeping on malfunctioning equipment.

The bungled rollout of earlier power outages added new layers of frustration with the company. At the start of the Oct. 9 outages, the PG&E website crashed, blocking customers from finding maps and information ahead of time; the resource centers it set up for people to cool down and charge mobile devices grew chaotic because of inadequate staffing; and its systems for alerting people about outages failed, leaving vulnerable people scrambling to find backup generators.

Ahead of Wednesday’s blackout, Newsom renewed his demands for the company to do better during the next public safety power shutoff. 

“PG&E’s lapse in planning to provide adequate, accurate and accessible information to its customers and the public was inexcusable,” he wrote in a letter to PG&E CEO William Johnson on Tuesday. “In the same vein, PG&E’s communications with local and tribal governments lacked even the most basic elements of emergency management organization.”